Rivendell Physical Education

Great Leap Forward

We always do track and field in the spring. Proper running, jumping and throwing technique are valuable foundations for any sort of athletic activity.

Kids naturally love to run and jump, so we try to help them learn to go faster and farther. Being up on your toes, leaning forward, and using arms properly as well as legs all help to improve these fundamental skills.


PE is a great class for developing teamwork and cooperation skills for all levels. You might competing against others, or simply working together to accomplish a goal, but you have to get along with others to have success.

We all remember the parachute from our school days. It takes the whole class cooperating to make a giant dome, or pop the balls off the parachute, or even play catch back and forth using smaller chutes. Other collaborative activities like the human knot or hula hoop pass develop these skills as well.


We had a special visit from Earl Gerlach of Collindale Golf Academy for Middle and Older Kids. Golf is not something we normally do in PE, and Earl came in exclusively to Rivendell to teach some golf basics. We started inside with putting, and a bit later this spring Earl will be back for chipping and full swing practice. It was a lot of fun and even I learned something!

The World in Balance

When we think of fitness, it’s usually cardiovascular, eating clean, or maybe lifting weights. But there are many more kinds of fitness you need be healthy. Balance and body awareness are extremely important for our mobility and safety.

We practice that skill with the “Double Balance Challenge”. Not just walking across different types and difficulty of balance beams, but balancing things with our hands—or heads!—at the same time.

Mixing it Up

Special classes like PE, computers, art and music don’t stand in a vacuum. They regularly interact with reading, writing, mathematics and each other. In PE, we have to time, measure and calculate; we learn about other cultures through the games we play; and we even try to compete with style and artistry.

The “Bodies in Motion” activity takes that literally! Preschool and Younger Kids paint pictures of figures moving (a la Keith Haring) in art. Then we bring those paintings into the gym, and the kids look at them, one by one, as if in an art museum. But they don’t just look—they have to perform the motion suggested by the figure! It requires some balance, flexibility, and most of all imagination.


One of the most effective ways to teach something is to do a simulation—put the students “inside” the subject. I love doing this with systems of the body where the kids get to be actual body parts (muscles, blood cells, lungs etc.) and model how they work. We started our study of anatomy with bones and muscles, and did a simulation to show how they work together to make the body move.

Three kids worked in a group. One sat on the scooter (the bone we want to move). The other two were muscles, and were connected to the bone by ropes (tendons). Since muscles can only pull (or contract), not push, a muscle can only pull the bone one way. To get the bone back to where it started, you need another muscle on the other side to pull the other way.

The kids learned from the simulation how muscles are attached to bones with tendons to help you move, can only pull, and work in opposing pairs to move your body around. Educational and fun!

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Balls in most sports bounce, but basketball is one of the few where you bounce it deliberately. In fact, it’s hard for kids to quietly hold their basketballs during instruction—balls want to be bounced!

Our basketball unit covers the skills of dribbling, passing and shooting. We practice things individually with no opposition, move to one-on-one or pairs to add pressure, then culminate with a full game. We may have some future NBA stars in the making.

Ghosts in the Graveyard

Halloween is a spooky, and so is one of the kids’ favorite games. It’s called Ghosts in the Graveyard, so of course we play it this time of year. Here’s a picture of Middle Kids playing:

Well, it’s played in the dark! One student is It; the others are ghosts. The objective is for the ghosts to creep around the “graveyard” and up close to It without being caught moving. Lots of fun and always popular for free choice days… and quite apropos for Halloween!

Quick Feet

A basketball game has 10 players on the court at a time. A soccer or American football game has 22! But there’s only one ball… what does everyone else do?

Answer: footwork! Good stance and footwork are important for every sport and activity you can imagine, even ones that might not be so obvious at first, like gymnastics or horseback riding (knees bent, on the balls of the feet). Sports with opponents like tennis, soccer, basketball use quick changes of speed and direction as well as balance and control.

We started our basketball unit without a ball at all, focusing on good footwork, coming to a stop and being ready to shoot or pass.

The importance of good footwork can’t be overlooked. Even in every-day life activities, being able to accelerate, swerve and stay balanced helps you get around safely. Footwork is fundamental!


Did you know that a badminton birdie is one of the fastest objects in sports? Pros can smash it over 400kph (250mph)!

Striking a moving object with an implement is a difficult skill that takes a lot of practice, especially when the object is moving that fast. While our games here at school aren’t quite that quick, it is still a challenge. Coordinating feet, eyes and hands to actually hit the shuttlecock is quite an achievement.

MK and OK had several weeks of badminton, learning the serve, forehand, backhand and smash, and rules of the game. By the end, with some practice, it was actually pretty-good-minton.